14th Commander-level talks are concluded between India and China in the PRC-occupied Moldo region of Tibet. This “intrusion and talk” tactic will continue until Beijing prepares well for the real battlefield: the Indian Ocean.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) needs to buttress things at the borders to manage internal rifts between populists and princes. Over the next three decades, China will be at the center of our security doctrine. We need to understand the Chinese concept of unrestricted warfare. A country that does not go to war is an expert at strategizing to win without actual combat. We excel in combat strategies, to the credit of our mighty forces, but we lag far behind in strategies that don’t lead to war.
In 1962, doing Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai was “smiling with a knife in hand behind back”. The CCP has used “borrow the knife to kill” in case of Nepal’s support against us in recent years. Currently in the Ladakh face-to-face, he is practicing “waiting in leisure and draining the enemy”.
In this context, for the long-term good of our national security apparatus, a bottom-up structure is essential. The realization must come that security studies are a separate field to train, in addition to intelligence training, forces and diplomacy.
Since independence, our security apparatus has worked with veterans of the armed forces, intelligence agencies and the diplomatic community. These three assets are largely focused on external security. National security includes homeland security and is a separate study stream. It’s not just about combat, intelligence or diplomacy. The curriculum for security studies from the bottom up to the doctoral level is lacking in traditional academia. Countries like China sponsor their students in the West and import the curriculum as students take it home with an added benefit of the Western perspective on war.
In Indian traditions, it is understood that Shastra (weapons) is for external security while Shaashtra (curriculum) is for internal security. Shastra Vidya also needs a Shaashtra.
If you don’t have a nationalist agenda, you end up spending Shastra on homeland security as well. This is precisely what we see in parts of Kashmir and Bengal. Even in modern times, in most Army war schools, nationalist historians must be hired as distinguished professors of national security.
Again, predictable warfare like Mantra yudh and Prakash yudh (diplomacy + open warfare) is always considered less effective than Kut yudh and Tushnim yudh (tactics + silent warfare).
What have we lost?
We have no idea what end results we want to see in each of our neighboring countries and what kind of environment should exist there for us to thrive and prosper peacefully. The value of a nation remains rooted in the type of neighborhood it surrounds itself with.
If we had our own indigenous NSA PhD, a local expert in Indian subcontinent security studies from the start:
* We will not have left Bangladesh without confirming a secular Constitution in 1971.
* We would have kept the 93,000 Pakistani soldiers as a Pakistani regiment here in India and prohibited them from keeping a separate army.
* Under the last UPA regime, the royal families of Nepal and Bhutan who loved India would not have lost power and the pro-PRC forces would not have grown to play there.
* We would understand that most foreign transactions and contracts require security screening from the very beginning. Avoid a situation where a hostile investment from China comes into a bank and you wake up after weeks to damage control. Nor that a tourist operator in a disrupted area continues to gain terrorist funding through online trip cancellation transactions and that we wake up after a few terrorist attacks.
* We would not have let popular Chinese apps create databases of all the demographic details of our population. Imagine, for example, a crowd of several thousand people passing on infuriating false information. Talking to the enemy population, bypassing the leaders, is a deadly weapon of war.
How do you start building an atmosphere at ground level?
A security curriculum requires a wealth of research and development, in addition to years of hard work to develop. But we can certainly evolve our current academic and research capabilities into one. We need to prepare future generations to naturally fill national security positions as subject matter experts.
* Establish a center for security studies on all elite campuses such as law schools, IITs and IIMs.
* Push incubation setups to work on targeted defense products and technologies with appropriate funding.
* Encourage the civil-military training of students in higher education.
* Ensure that all war heroes and stories of wars fought after 1947 are taught in schools. People should celebrate real heroes more than sports or fictional movie heroes.
* Recommend retired war heroes and generals to undertake activities and hold seminars in schools and colleges.
* Establish a national team for the research and preparation of a security curriculum and related requirements.
Ankit Shah is a foreign policy and security studies analyst.